A Girl, A Horse, and True Change
By Kari Fulmek, Equine Connection
A little girl from one of our eight-week anti-bullying curriculums had come with seven other youth from her school. All of the kids attending had been to the principal’s office several times with issues, either from being a bully or from being bullied themselves. In addition, there were considerable behavioural issues including fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, attention deficit disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and oppositional defiant disorder, among others. We put the youth into teams of two with their teacher, the horse, each time they came out. Every time we did this, the human teammates never wanted to be Gloria’s partner, so they just left her to do the program all by herself with the horse. Maybe they left her because she didn’t talk much and she was continually burping.
Photo courtesy of Equine Connection
When Gloria began to work with the horse on her own, she started connecting with him right away due to her stimulus. She and the horse were constantly eye to eye, and at a glance you could already tell that they were opening up to each other. The other kids began noticing and began to get jealous, which resulted in them going up and taking the horse away from Gloria. We, as facilitators, had to let the process happen and could not intervene. It took all the strength we had to not involve ourselves as we felt bad for little Gloria. It broke our hearts to see that the amazing, authentic connection she and the horse had was broken up so quickly. But then again, we listened to the horse’s body language, and the situation that was happening was okay.
On to the next horse. We couldn’t believe it! It happened again. Gloria and this other horse connected right away – eye to eye. Again, there came the other kids and stole that horse away from Gloria. Still, we stood back and let the process happen.
Finally, by the eighth and last program, Gloria found the skill she needed! This same situation had happened repeatedly, and that last day she finally stood up for herself. She stomped her foot and said, “No! I am working with this horse.” I think we were all a bit taken aback as we were not expecting that to happen. However, because we had let the process come about, Gloria finally got the skill she needed to stand up for herself, to be the leader within, and say NO!
Photo courtesy of Equine Connection
Not only was this a truly amazing experience to be part of, but the story gets even better. After the program was done, we went back into the classroom to finish the day with the debrief. In the debriefing stage, the kids usually choose one word from the achievement board to talk about what their teacher (the horse) taught them, or how it reflected their day. However, for Gloria this time, she didn’t pick just one word, or even two words. She chose eight words. Eight!
We asked her why she chose those words and then – BAM! BAM! BAM! – she listed each of them off. As if that wasn’t amazing enough, her peers, who once bullied and ignored her, then began to clap at her accomplishment and gave her a standing ovation. What an amazingly humble moment to witness, and what a true privilege it was to be a part of little Gloria’s journey.
Seeing the change from the beginning of week one to the end of week eight is why we love our career so much. It truly is life-changing.
For more information, please visit Equine Connection™.
Main article photo: Gloria quickly developed a genuine connection with every horse, and her journey was truly inspiring. Photo courtesy of Equine Connection.